Effective time management is the process of planning and exercising conscious control over the time allocated to each task based on their priority to increase efficiency, effectiveness and productivity. While planning the time to be allotted to each task, identifying and labelling each task with the right priority level is the critical success factor for this process.

Both professional and personal tasks must be considered and sorted out during the time management planning process. In this context, it would be highly beneficial if you internalize the concept put forward by Stephen Covey, which is popularly known as Covey’s Time Management Matrix.

Stephen Richards Covey (1932 – 2012) was an American educator, author, businessman, and keynote speaker. His most popular books include The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, First Things First, Principle-Centered Leadership, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families, The 8th Habit, and The Leader In Me — How Schools and Parents Around the World Are Inspiring Greatness, One Child at a Time. In 1996, Time magazine named him one of the 25 most influential people.

Covey laid a strong foundation on the time management concept through his book “First things first”. He emphasizes the fact that if established as a habit, an effective time management approach can solve major challenges faced both in both personal and professional space.

We live in a time-pressured environment and it is very probable that we will have multiple overlapping commitments.

Covey’s time management matrix is an effective method of organising your priorities.

In quadrant 1 (top left), we need to organise urgent and important tasks. These tasks must be dealt with immediately. These tasks are to be tagged with the highest priority. For example, Deadline driven projects come under this category.

In quadrant 2 (top right), we have important but not urgent items. These are long term goals to be achieved through planning. Exercise and relationship building are all important, but not urgent. Those tasks need to be done with precise planning.

In quadrant 3 (bottom left), urgent items are falling which are not important. These insignificant tasks need to be delegated immediately to avoid meeting timeline though they are insignificant or critical. These tasks are often which does not require highly skilled people to perform them. For example, arranging logistics for the meeting the next day is an urgent task, but it can be done by anybody and does not need a specific skill set.

The last quadrant (bottom right) is to put together the tasks which are not important nor urgent. These tasks must be identified immediately and eliminated completely from the system, especially the workplace in order to achieve excellence. These time-consuming unnecessary tasks often keep the person busy with zero productivity and add little or no value at all.

It is easy to conceptualise the tasks in the given framework. Task lists can be that of personal management or professional management. Effective time management helps to maximize individual success thereby contributing to the growth of the organisation as well. It keeps us focussed, organised, less stressful and more productive all at the same time.